the diary thing 
bl - blockTHIS DIARY IS THREE YEARS OLD TODAY. That makes it three years since I decided to jeopardize my relationship with my girlfriend, family and friends by writing about my life online. Three years of realizing, with increasing dismay, that not a hell of a lot happens to me. Three years of broken links, lousy page design, spellcheck, stolen graphics, rants, unfulfilled optimism and frustrated readers. 

To each and every one of you who have stuck with this thing despite the increasingly spotty updates -- thank you. To the readers who left along the way, no doubt finding better things to do with their time than enrich their ISP with idle browsing -- up yr bum.

WHAT'S HAPPENED IN THE LAST YEAR? A year ago, I was engaged to be married. A year later, I'm still engaged to be married, though I can say with some confidence that K. and I will -- 90% certainty -- be married as of November 10th of this year. I haven't really said much about this whole ongoing drama, mostly because it falls into the province of "really personal stuff" that I promised K. I wouldn't discuss in this diary. As the day draws near, however, it'll all be very much in the public domain, and I'll naturally be obliged to let details slip.

A year ago, we had two cats. Today, we have three. Keebler is still with us, of course, though we lost Nato just over a year ago. Tado took her place, and has grown from a silly, overenergetic kitten with no sense of boundaries to a silly full-grown cat with no sense of boundaries. We kind of failed with Tado, I think -- it doesn't bode well for our parenting skills. She has no sense of right and wrong, a complete lack of fear, and a tendency to regard everything -- personal property, other cats, scoldings, domestic chores -- as play. She's also a mutant: She has webbed feet and adores playing in the water. (My suspicion is a government experiment gone wrong, with the results discreetly dumped on the humane society.) 

The only thing I can say vaguely in her favour -- and even this detail is a bit creepy -- is that she doesn't talk. That's right -- nary a meow or peep comes from this cat, as she cuts a swath of destruction around the house. I suppose, since we overfed her as a kitten -- the result being a slick-furred, podgy, graceless little tank of a cat -- she doesn't see the need to ask for food. Or anything else, obviously. The only sounds she makes are little closed-mouth murmurs -- seemingly talking to herself -- and these disturbing coos and clicks -- hungry hunting sounds -- she mutters while watching birds outside the window. A real freak of a cat.

We've also got Trixie, a long-haired tabby that technically belongs to our friend Franc, who has boarded her with us until he gets his life in order after a divorce. She's a sweet little thing, affectionate and gentle, with an unfortunate tendency to pee in protest -- on the kitchen floor when the cat litter hasn't been changed; by the door to the deck when she wants out. 

"As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death."
- George Bernard Shaw

Happy anniversary.

A YEAR AGO, I WAS WORKING ON MY NOVEL. I'm still working on my novel. I've written new chapters, and scenes, but haven't had a chance to sit down and integrate the whole thing together, with a view to lunging ahead to a complete second draft. Actually, since I've revised the first twelve chapters so many times, the finished first draft should probably be called Version 1.56 or something like that. 

I used to complain about government grants for creative writing, but the fact is that making a living -- in journalism or whatever -- can really fuck with your schedule. I suppose if I lived somewhere isolated, working as a contractor at a distance from my clients, where being in a specific location doesn't really matter, I might have worked out a writing schedule that allowed time, every day for work on the book. (My friend John Scalzi seems to have this fortunate circumstance -- and the discipline to take advantage of it.)

Unfortunately, as a freelance journalist, I hardly have a solid week that isn't broken up by appointments or assignments that take me all around the city for work. Three hours a morning, for a solid month, in front of the computer would probably see me through to the end of the first draft, but I haven't had that in months. Just yesterday, I spent twelve hours following a city councillor around for a "Day in the Life of..." story. The Mount Dennis piece took up over two months, mostly spent travelling around the old neighbourhood, talking to whomever would make the time for me.

It's all just a sad load of limp excuses, and I know it. If only for the measly $1500 dollars in grant money I've accepted for this project, I should finish the book. If only because I actually stand a remote chance of getting published, I should forge ahead. If only because I feel so terribly guilty at leaving Patrick Regan and all my other characters hanging on the verge of... something...I should carve out those three hours a day. 

The previous paragraphs have, I'm sure you can tell, been in the nature of a pep talk, to myself. Would somebody please provide me with even more compelling reasons to get back to work, in earnest?

LAST WEEK, I WAS WAITING AT THE BARBER SHOP when I decided to do something drastic. I had a heavy, itchy growth of beard, and if I had another ten bucks in my wallet, I would have gotten a haircut, as well, but the beard was my priority. Suddenly it was my turn. I sat in the chair and said: "Shave."

The barber made the usual start, trimming off the excess fur with his electric clippers, leaving the goatee, but I stopped him, pointed to the goatee, and said: "Take it all off." He looked at me for a second, asked me if I was certain I wanted it to go. I said: "What the hell. It's summer."

Fifteen minutes or so later, I was clean shaven. Cleaner shaven, in fact, than I've been in more than a decade. I've had my goatee -- before that a van dyke, before that a beard -- for eleven or twelve years. I have friends who've never seen me without facial hair. My motivation: I thought it would be nice for K. to see my chin at least once before we were married.

She likes it. I don't. It's probably not logical, but I see my chin and I think: "Hmmm. Weak chin." I don't like my chin. I also see scars from fierce teenage acne. No one else says they do. I hate it. I'm growing the goatee back.

A COUPLE OF WEEKS BACK, I was in a position to spend a bit of money. I'd just been paid for the Mount Dennis feature, after shooting a wedding. There was money in the bank. What should I do? 

I've wanted a bookshelf stereo system for up here in the library since we moved in -- as it is now, I can only listen to music in the living room. That would be about three hundred bucks. Good time to splurge, right?

Wrong. I went out and paid off one of my creditors -- $500 owing on a credit card I used once, to buy a decent turntable, a year or two before I met K. I've probably paid for it twice over, in interest, and they were my most persistent creditors, calling every other morning when payments went overdue. Enough of that, I thought -- this'll shut them up.

It felt great. I'll never hear from Entitle Card again. 

WHAT DO I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH in the next year? I want to get married. I want to finish the book. I want to build a new bookshelf or two. I want to make a steadier, or at least more substantial, income. I want to write more magazine features. I want to take more photos. I want to lose ten pounds. 

I want to grow my goatee back. I want to pay off at least one more of my creditors, on the way to becoming solvent again. I want to be able to think about having a kid without breaking out into a cold sweat. I want to write some short stories. I want to start a second book.

I want the two-line bio that runs under my writing to be more substantial, more specific; to read more than just: "Rick McGinnis is a Toronto writer and photographer." I want to get the couch re-upholstered. I want to write for an American magazine. I want to shoot an annual report for a big corporation. I want to find the best way to grill sardines over an open flame. 

I want to go to Spain again. I want to see Italy. I want to learn better web design. I want to stop complaining about high school. I want to wear more hats. I want a decent saute pan. I want new glasses. I want to make a movie. I want to make more jam.

writing ©2001
Rick McGinnis
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